PLANO, Texas — Perhaps no one person aside from Mel Gibson himself has made a more noteworthy effort to promote "The Passion of The Christ" than a Texas man who purchased 6,000 tickets to the film and gave them away to the community.
Arch Bonnema, a member of the Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, happened to be invited to a preview of "The Passion" when a friend had to back out at the last minute. The film had such an impact on him that he wanted to share it with as many people as possible.
"I have been a Christian all of my life, and I have heard people talk about Jesus dying for our sins and sacrificing His life," Bonnema told Baptist Press. "But when you hear it repetitively, it loses impact. When you see this film, it really hits home the sacrifice that Jesus made for us.
"I walked out of there with a whole recommitment to be more Christlike, and I thought this is something we need to wake up the church – something the church needs to see."
Bonnema called his wife as he left the theater and reminded her that the typical movie lasts about two weeks at the box office. Popular ones run longer, but no one can guarantee how long "The Passion" will be available in theaters.
"If people see this film at the end of the two weeks and tell their friends about it, [their friends] won't be able to see it," Bonnema told his wife. "If we can get a lot of people to see it the very first day, I think we have the potential of changing the lives of a lot of people in Dallas. ... My goal is to get people to see it early so they'll have time to tell their friends about it and we can get more people to see it in the time that it's out."
His wife agreed, and Bonnema inquired about renting out the Cinemark complex in Plano for the day "The Passion" is released – Feb. 25.
"$42,000 is a lot of money for us, so it was a big commitment," said Bonnema, who owns an insurance agency with his son.
The Cinemark theater has 20 screens, and Bonnema and his family have rented them all for the showing of "The Passion."
"We're going to do the largest two screens twice, so we'll actually be showing it 22 times between 6:30 in the morning and 9:30 [at night]," he said.
They decided to stagger the show times in 30-minute intervals so that all 6,000 people would not enter the complex at the same time.
Bonnema gave half of the tickets to Prestonwood, and they are being distributed through the Bible fellowship classes at the church. He gave 1,000 to Dallas Theological Seminary and 1,000 to ministries that he and his wife support. For the remaining 1,000, Bonnema sent an e-mail to a few friends to let them know that if anyone wanted a ticket he had some available.
"In three days I had 2,300 requests," he said of the results from the e-mail.
© 2004 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press. All rights reserved. Used with permission.